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British artist Edmund Clark is Ikon’s artist-in-residence (2014–2018) at Europe’s only entirely therapeutic prison, HMP Grendon, in Buckinghamshire. This exhibition is the culmination of his residency, comprising photography, video and installation.
Established in 1962, HMP Grendon requires inmates to accept responsibility for their offence. Within the prison environment they can exercise a degree of control over the day-to-day running of their lives, making a commitment to intensive group therapy and democratic decision-making, whilst holding each other to account. Evidence shows that Grendon has delivered lower levels of violence in prison and reduced instances of reoffence after release.
Clark, an artist with a longstanding interest in incarceration and its effects, has worked with inmates, prison officers and therapeutic staff, immersed himself in the prison routines and taken part in wing community meetings, a key element of life at Grendon.
Clark’s work is shaped by his engagement with issues of censorship, security and control. He cannot make images that reveal the identity of the prisoners or details of the security infrastructure and so his response has been to create work that explores ideas of visibility, representation, trauma and self-image. These themes influence how prisoners and the criminal justice system are perceived by the public, politicians and media and are above all central to the experience of the men and staff engaged in the therapeutic process at Grendon.
Photo: Edmund Clark, In Place of Hate (2017). Image courtesy of Edmund Clark, Ikon and Flowers Gallery.